Just because your business is not designed to make a profit doesn’t mean you can ignore the marketing principles of regular for-profit companies. You could even make the argument that a nonprofit has an even greater obligation to apply marketing principles and tactics to their organization.
Most nonprofits seek to promote a message or idea to help people, including their salaried employees. This type of promotion is almost the same goal as for-profit companies. Both have the common purpose of reaching as many people as possible with their product, message or service.
True, a for-profit business seeks income for personal gain. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, a nonprofit organization is also seeking revenue. But their revenue is designed to help others. The desire to serve others first can elicit altruistic motives for raising support. A for-profit business does not have this advantage built into their business model.
Why shouldn’t a nonprofit take advantage of the same principles of marketing as the for-profit company? By using mainstream marketing techniques, they can increase their revenue and help more people.
Nonetheless, a nonprofit marketing strategy is not identical to for-profit endeavors. In some ways, it is entirely different, but in a positive way.
What Makes Marketing a Nonprofit Different?
Nonprofit marketing is different from traditional marketing in a few ways.
First, there are differences in the target audience. When marketing a nonprofit, it is essential to understand the differences in your audience. A for profit must target people interested in their product or service for personal use. A nonprofit will target an audience who is interested in their cause.
Second, there are differences in the value exchange with the target audience. With a nonprofit, you should find ways to provide value to the customer beyond the need for generosity. Providing value can help increase revenue. For example, a benefit auction provides goods in exchange for generosity. It is a win-win situation.
Third, you have a greater ability to appeal to emotions. The active ability to make emotional appeals provides nonprofit marketers an advantage over for-profit companies. The nonprofit exists primarily to help raise funds for a cause. Fundraising for a nonprofit gives a unique opportunity to appeal to the emotions of your target audience.
Unique Challenges of Nonprofit Marketing Strategy
It must be great karma marketing a nonprofit: doing good, connecting with genuinely interested people, raising awareness without necessarily needing to to worry about profit generation. It sounds great, but marketing for a nonprofit can also come with its difficulties and frustrations. Nonprofit marketing challenges are unique and must be understood and conquered to have the most impact for your cause. Below are a few challenges you may have faced or might face in the future:
- A lack of a hearty advertising budget
- The potential disconnect donors feel with the marketing material.
- Balancing a message’s sensitivity with a powerful messaging strategy
- Those interested in the cause may not appreciate promotional marketing centered solely around the organization
- How to create messaging strategies that appeal to people’s selflessness, rather than self-interest
- Due to budget restrictions, marketing teams are usually much smaller than what is needed to execute a complete nonprofit marketing strategy
- Not only do nonprofits have to compete and stand out out amongst other nonprofits, they also are competing against larger corporations and charities
Nonprofit Marketing Trends
In many ways, trends are feedback: they provide a window into the inner workings of communities and what large segments of the population like or hate and how they like to be engaged. Below you will find some key marketing and business trends with nonprofits:
- According to Forbes, the most recent trend in marketing nonprofits is artificial intelligence (AI).
- Recurring giving ranked highest on the list of nonprofit trends.
- Another one of the biggest nonprofit trends was a renewed focus on social impact transparency.
- The world of marketing focuses heavily on the delivery of personalized content.
- Website speed becomes doubly important when you factor in new international fundraising markets popping up across the globe.
- Measurement becomes even more important as nonprofits embrace marketing as a strategic practice.
- Nonprofits will use technology to engage donors face to face and at every giving level.
- Transitional organizations focused on solving problems and then disbanding will increasingly challenge “permanent” nonprofits.
- Nonprofits will become proactive, rather than reactive, to opportunistic fundraising campaigns.
- Nonprofits have begun to take advantage of tools like Facebook Ads and Google Ads to promote their events to targeted audiences.
- Customer service will be key when asking for and receiving donations.
Nonprofit Marketing Strategies and Tactics
If you need marketing ideas for nonprofits, here are 10 nonprofit marketing solutions to take your nonprofit to the next level. Many of these strategies overlap. However, each is important, and you should evaluate them accordingly.
1. Embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Since artificial intelligence is one of the newest trends in marketing your nonprofit, the early adoption of AI can give you a marketing advantage. Artificial intelligence marketing can include email automation, messenger bots, and personalized website experiences.
2. Embrace Direct Marketing Methods
Not everyone uses the Internet. Nonprofit direct marketing is vital to any nonprofit organization. It includes print marketing material that potential clients can hold in their hands.
If you ignore nonprofit direct marketing, you might be losing money for your nonprofit organization. Since direct marketing can incur additional costs, you’ll want to make sure that you consult a professional to help you create your direct marketing material.
3. Participate in Nonprofit Event Marketing
Event marketing is an entertaining and fashionable way to market your nonprofit because events provide a fun experience for your donors. As a result, you can experience the win-win discussed earlier. You raise money, and your donors get value in return. There are many types of nonprofit event marketing ideas including charity auctions, golf tournaments, marathons, and more.
4. Create a Nonprofit Website with SEO Ranking Potential
Having a website is mandatory in any industry, but it will not serve your nonprofit without being optimized for nonprofit SEO. A website that is search engine optimized (SEO) will drive people to your site that are already interested in your cause.
Without this type of optimization, your website will not show up in Google searches, and you will have decreased exposure. With a good web design, you’ll increase exposure and revenue.
Recommended service: Local SEO
5. Create a Nonprofit Website Design that Converts
SEO is important, but it is also essential to have the proper nonprofit website design. There are design elements in websites that can bring in more donations. Excellent web design is one area you don’t want to cut corners.
Website design is of such importance that it can be the deciding factor whether or not a potential donor will trust you with their money, according to Forbes.
Recommended service: Website and Experience Design
6. Grow an Email List
Email marketing is a powerful tool that nonprofits can use to further engage their audience on a relevant medium. Email marketing is essential for nonprofits for several reasons and allows you to do the following:
- Raise more money through targeted campaigns
- Engage donors with relevant information
- Receive instant feedback about your donors
Recommended reading: Email Marketing Benchmarks By Industry
7. Engage in Nonprofit Social Media Marketing
Nonprofit social media marketing (SMM) is a must for any nonprofit organization. SMM is the fastest way to connect with your target audience.
In addition, SSM can do the following:
- Drive traffic to your website
- Increase awareness of your cause
- Provide continual exposure without incurring substantial costs
FYI: In August of 2015, Facebook announced that they’re allowing selected non-profits to add a “Donate Now” call-to-action button to their Facebook page encouraging users to act immediately on Facebook.
8. Create Beneficial Alliances
Forming strategic alliances with other organizations can be beneficial for nonprofits in many ways.
You can benefit from alliances in the following ways:
- Decrease expenses through sharing
- Increase quality of services through collaboration
- Expand value propositions of both organizations
In addition, a strategic alliance can create more awareness as your nonprofit gets exposure to a new group of people who may share an interest in your cause.
9. Make Giving Easy
One of the hardest parts of marketing a nonprofit is asking for money. However, without revenue, a nonprofit can’t operate.
It is fundamental to get over the fear of asking for donations. And it is also necessary to make it easy for donors to give. Always include a call-to-action (CTA) in your correspondence. A low-risk option is to make that CTA one to get them to sign up for your email list to learn more.
Eventually, you need to let them know how to support your cause. A simple “Donate” button will work wonders.
10. Do Google Adwords for Free
Many nonprofits rule out pay-per-click marketing because they think it’s going to be too expensive to bid on important keywords. These marketers likely aren’t aware of Google’s Ad Grants program, which is basically free money given to nonprofits to advertise on Google Adwords.
11. Hire a Nonprofit Marketing Agency
If you want to take your not-for-profit marketing to the next level, the best recommendation by far is to seek out nonprofit marketing services.
A nonprofit marketing agency can take the marketing burden out of your hands so that you can focus on other facets of the organization.
Summary: How to Market a Nonprofit Organization
If you have read through this article, you are probably looking for marketing ideas for your nonprofit.
Don’t be overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time, and you will be able to improve your donor base, increase the exposure of your nonprofit and ultimately increase revenue so you can help more people with your important cause.
A simple way to begin is to work through the list of 10 items one by one and become a nonprofit marketing expert in each. Working through the list may take time, but it will be worth the benefits.
Or, if you need someone to take care of your nonprofit marketing services, find an agency with experience in nonprofit marketing strategy. They will have a plethora of nonprofit marketing services from which to choose. You can decide which services you’d like to hire out and which you are skilled to do yourself.
In the end, it will be worth the investment because you should see a substantial increase in the awareness of your cause and your revenue.